Introduction to the text
A PICTORIAL TOUR TO ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE.
B Y W. W I L K I E C O L L I N S.
AUTHOR OF " RAMBLES BEYOND RAILWAYS," ETC.
" My dear friend, I have seen everything in Rouen, and I am heartily
tired of it ! "
" Tired of Rouen ! You ought to be ashamed of yourself ! Tired
of a city so celebrated in history; which has such churches, such
houses, such wonderful relics of antiquity in every street ! a city where
Corneille was born, and Joan of Arc burnt ! a city which is mentioned
by the great Ptolemy as Rotomagus, by the Peutinger Table as Ratu-
magus, and by Ammianus Marcellinus in the more plural form of
Rotomagi ! Tired of Rouen, indeed ! Pooh, pooh, nonsense ! It's a
joke, and a very bad one, too ! "
The first speaker in the above dialogue was the writer of the present
narrative; the second, his travelling companion and friend, Mr. Scumble,
an amateur artist of signal ability, whose name the public cannot fail
to recognise, when it is stated that he was the painter of that celebrated
picture, entitled, " Landscape --- sunset," which hung in the last Academy
Exhibition but one, at the top of the Miniature Room, near the corner,
on the left hand side as you go in. Besides his accomplishments as an
artist, Mr. Scumble was an enthusiastic antiquarian: set him down
before an old house, or an old church, and he was as happy as a hungry
man set down before a good dinner. However, this latter phase of his
character has been already sufficiently developed in the dialogue above
reported, to which I now beg leave to return, confessing to the reader,
as well as to Mr. Scumble, the humiliating truth --- I was tired of
I was tired of seeing the same toppling, quaint old houses in every
part of the town; I was tired of innumerable Gothic churches, every
one of which was sure to be under repair somewhere, and to have an
ugly scaffolding hiding its beauties at the exact point where you most
wished to behold them; I was tired of incessantly passing the birth-
place of Corneille, a rickety, rotten building, which we were always
sure to walk by accidentally, either going out, or coming home; I was
tired of bad smells in the small streets, and of shabby shops in the
large; I was tired of meeting, in the dull Boulevards and the moulder-
ing melancholy squares, the same surly Frenchmen over and over again
--- those grim, barbarian grand-children of the polite people who still live
before us, immortal, in the travelling experiences of Lawrence Sterne !
I was tired --- doubly tired --- of dining at the table d'hôte of our inn,
where I sat opposite to a gaunt, hungry-looking English governess, who
would improve herself by talking bad French to every one about her;
where I had for my side companion, a corpulent German, who would
comb his beard out smooth, between every one of the courses, from the
soup to the dessert.
I was tired, again, of the restaurant on the quay, to which we re-
treated from the hotel. If I looked down the room, I saw nothing but
a miserable, lean old woman, who presided over the place, displaying
494 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
her tawny neck and shoulders in a blue muslin ball dress, as she sat
behind the counter serving out lumps of sugar, tooth-picks, and small
change for the after-dinner wants of her customers. Then, if I looked
out of the window, I saw nothing but a small plot of dusty ground,
planted with dusty trees, up and down which there paced slowly and
solemnly a little troop of French officers, all laced in so tight at the
waist, that it was a perfect marvel how they managed to walk at all --- one
fat captain in particular being fast buttoned up and girded in all down his
body, until he was black in the face, and looked likely to explode every
moment under the excessive compression of his own regimentals ! But,
enough of the monotony and melancholy of a long stay at Rouen ---
when I told Mr. Scumble that I was tired of it, I told him the truth,
and had good reason for telling it.
Our conversation took place during a sultry evening in August, in
the garden of a coffee-house fronting the Seine. This garden was
about the length and breadth of the street area of an ordinary London
house --- it was, in fact, a mere strip of ground reclaimed from the road-
way, from which it was only separated by some dwarf palings. The
verdure clothing this calm and pleasing retreat was contained in two
wooden chests filled with mould, from one of which sprang erect a cedar
of Lebanon --- an infant cedar, two feet high. From the other arose a
creeper, languishing in the last stage of vegetable atrophy. These two
plants were constantly watered, clipped, pruned, examined at all possible
points, referred to on all possible occasions by the master of the coffee-
house, who spoke with more pride of his garden than of anything else in
his possession. He pointed out the cedar of Lebanon to us the first
time we passed through the dwarf palings and ordered a cup of coffee.
He was an old soldier --- a vieux sabreur, as he called himself --- and
had served under Napoleon. He had fought in Italy and Egypt, at
Austerlitz and Wagram, and through part of the battles in Spain. And
now, after having seen all the carnage, the horror, the glory of war;
after having lived through the convulsions of nations, and the wrecks of
dynasties, here he was, at the end of his life, occupied in watering a
plant or two in a strip of garden, and peaceably keeping a coffee-house
in his native town. What contrasts there are in this wonderful exist-
ence of ours ! --- how variously and how often the scenes of strife and
peace, of action and repose, can shift backwards and forwards, though
the stage that shows them lasts after all but a few short years !
This vieux sabreur was a good fellow in his way --- confident and
hearty in his manners; oratorical and bombastic in his talk; and ready
to eulogise his native town, as superior to every other place on the sur-
face of the earth. Finding my accomplished companion, Mr. Scumble,
by no means so entertaining as usual on the subject of Rouen, and not
feeling particularly interested by his account of the ancient appellations
given to the town by Ptolemy and the Peutinger Table, I determined to
amuse myself a little with the old soldier, and risk an attack on his local
prejudices, by telling him, as I had told Mr. Scumble, that I had seen
everything in Rouen, and was heartily tired of it.
" See everything over again ! " cried the vieux sabreur, setting down
his watering-pot with a bang, beneath the cedar of Lebanon --- " You can-
not see too much ! ascend once more the eminence of Mont St. Cathe-
rine --- look down --- " Mille bombes ! " (I translate the veteran literally,
except in his oaths) --- " Mille bombes ! what do you behold beneath you?
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 495
you may look on it for ever ! --- is it Rome? is it Venice? is it Alex-
andria? is it Jericho? --- No ! a thousand times, no ! --- it is better than
all ! for it is Rouen ! "
" Very true," said I, " but one may find it dull, if one stays too long
at Rome, at Venice, at Alexandria, at Jericho --- why not even at Rouen,
at last? "
" Dull? Never ! --- Are we brave and gallant men? --- if we are, we are
never dull," pursued the vieux sabreur, tossing off a glass of his own
brandy (he always got eloquent on brandy). " I, on my part, you per-
ceive, my dear sir, have never been dull ! --- was I dull in Spain, when
your dragoons --- Sacré bleu ! they can fight; they are braves, your dra-
goons ! --- when your red cavalry laid me on my back, with a pistol-bullet
in my leg, a sabre-cut on my side, and two more on my head; even then,
am I dull, am I low spirited? No ! I swear a little to console myself;
and I am contented ! --- they make me swallow drugs --- nom d'une pipe !
such potions ! --- in the hospital --- well ! I swear a little more, I console
myself a little more, I am still contented ! They can't get the bullet
out of my leg --- I limp --- they report me unfit for service --- good ! --- per-
haps, I swear at this again --- but, sacré mille tonnerres ! I console my-
self that I keep my leg --- I never find myself dull --- and I live; live,
worthy sir, to thank your red cavalry for knocking me over; for, but
for them, I should have followed the emperor into Russia, and left my
carcase in the snow --- Mille bombes ! left it among Cossacks, who drink
stinking lamp-oil, and eat their horse-flesh raw ! "
" But to return to Rouen," I resumed, anxious to bring the old soldier
back to the subject from which he had slightly wandered. " Is there
nothing new still to be seen? --- if there were, for instance, a few excur-
sions to be made in the neighbourhood."
" There are ! --- Credié ! there are ! " answered the veteran --- " I ask
myself; I ask all my comrades; I ask the whole world, where are there
such excursions as at Rouen? Can anybody tell me? --- anybody ! " con-
tinued the vieux sabreur, looking out boldly into the empty air, by way of
apostrophising the whole solar system.
" There is St. George Bosherville," said Mr. Scumble, joining in the
conversation for the first time. " Bosherville possesses an old church
" Good ! " interposed the sabreur, catching the name. " Good ! he
speaks well, the friend of this worthy sir, at my side ! Now, listen: you
rise at five hours and a half, to-morrow morning --- you take the boat -
you ask to be disembarked down the river, at the road which leads to
St. George Bosherville --- then, you walk half an hour --- three-quarters of
an hour --- which shall I say? Mille z'yeux ! which shall I say? --- well,
you walk --- you breakfast at Bosherville --- you see all that is most mag-
nificent, most sublime in landscape --- you come back in the evening; and
thank me, a thousand times thank me, for sending you to St. George
Bosherville ! "
Though this magic name, Bosherville, sounded to me excessively like
the appellation of some sham settlement in an American swamp, I
determined to follow the advice of the vieux sabreur, if only with the
object of discovering a little novelty, and escaping from Rouen for one
day at least. Excellent as a travelling companion, as well as an anti-
quarian, Mr. Scumble avowed his intention of accompanying me --- partly
for my sake; partly for the sake of the old church. Accordingly, we
496 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
saluted the veteran, who shouted fresh directions after us as we left him;
packed up our sketching materials; and, rain or sunshine, desired the
people at the inn to call us punctually at five the next morning.
I said we packed up our sketching materials; and I emphatically
repeat it. I was an amateur artist, as well as Mr. Scumble. Though,
as a painter, of vastly inferior calibre to that accomplished gentleman,
my preparations for sketching were of far greater importance than his.
I had with me a painting box (which I shall have occasion to introduce
again hereafter), made to strap on to my shoulders, like a knapsack;
and stocked with a wonderfully complete assortment of colours, brushes,
mill-boards, palette-knives, palettes, oil-bottles, gallipots, and rags.
Being of the inferior, or embryo order of artists, I, of course, required
a perfect paraphernalia of materials to work with --- gentlemen of amateur
tendencies generally do. But, with Mr. Scumble, the case was different -
to that skilful workman all tools were alike --- give that colossal artist a
sketch-book and a halfpenny pencil; and, scorning any assistance from
India rubber, he could safely defy all competition, ancient or modern.
I only introduce these remarks parenthetically, for the sake of properly
explaining the epithet which adorns the title of the present narrative:
we went to St. George Bosherville fully determined to make masterly
sketches of any desirable objects that came in our way; therefore, our
tour was essentially a " pictorial tour; " and therefore it is, I think not
unreasonably, so entitled here.
Well: we arose at five o'clock in the morning. A large number of
highly-respectable persons who get up very early --- being, as I am in-
clined to think, affected with a restlessness of the circulation and a
fidgety nervous fibre, which deprives them of the power of lying in bed
after sunrise --- are accustomed to elevate, or conceal, their infirmity by
publishing it to the world as a sort of sanitary regulation. These are
the people who prescribe early rising to others --- without stopping to
inquire about their constitutions and temperaments --- as necessary to
health and conducive to happiness. Renouncing all argument with
persons so misguided, I merely beg to offer them a few facts for consi-
deration. These facts are contained in the following true and carefully-
digested statement of the effect of early rising upon the health and
happiness of Mr. Scumble and myself, on the morning when we started
for our memorable tour.
On being awakened, Nature, in the case of both the sufferers, imme-
diately rebelled against being artificially startled from repose by a knock
at the door. A painful disposition was observed in the eyelid to drop
again the moment it was raised. The whole physical organisation sank
under an uneasy sense of lethargy, and the breathing became slightly
stertorous. On bringing the body, by a convulsive effort, into a sitting
posture, a disagreeable tendency to immoderate and incessant yawning
was immediately developed, which lasted throughout the greater part of
the day, in spite of every effort to remedy it. (N.B. --- both sufferers
had gone to bed early ). On stepping out of bed an unpleasant dryness
in the mouth, accompanied by a taste of copper, brass, or other metallic
substances, as well as by a slight headache, immediately supervened;
and, like the tendency to yawning, continued, more or less, throughout
the day. ( N.B --- neither sufferer had eaten any supper). Lastly, the
serenity of temper which peculiarly distinguishes Mr. Scumble and his
companion, on all other occasions, was considerably ruffled on this.
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 497
They began by differing upon every possible subject of conversation;
and ended by relapsing into sulky silence. One of the enterprising
tourists was so completely prostrated, that he cut himself while shaving;
the other was so totally unnerved as to tumble over his own painting-
box. Three gallipots were broken, one tube of Prussian blue was burst,
in that tightly-packed receptacle, at the moment of the concussion.
Such is the true history, diagnostically treated, of the effects of early
rising on the health and happiness of Mr. Scumble and his friend.
And now, to return to the narrative. It was a sunny, cloudless
morning as we walked to the quay, and found the boat --- a clumsy little
steamer --- just ready to start. We hastened on board, and immediately
began to descend the river. I hope the worthy reader will not expect
me to give any description of the scenery of the Seine in this place.
My time was too fully occupied in yawning, and vainly trying to sit,
stand, or lie down (I was not particular which) in a comfortable position,
to leave me any opportunity for exercising the faculties of observation.
I have a vague impression of passing multitudes of little islands crowded
with trees; of banks sometimes wooded and sometimes rocky; of a
great heat already in the atmosphere overhead: and of a strong smell
of half-digested garlic, proceeding from a very orderly dozen or so of
peasantry, who were our fellow-passengers. Beyond this, I remember
nothing. At the expiration of an hour the engines were stopped oppo-
site a miserable village, numbering some three or four houses --- the best
starting point, we were told, for St. George Bosherville. A boat,
shaped like an exaggerated horse-trough, put off to the steamer; we
landed in it, and started at once for our place of destination, guided
only by that simple yet comprehensive direction, " Go straight on ! "
By this time we had begun to feel rather more than an agreeably
sharp appetite for breakfast. We had set forth in too great a hurry to
provide ourselves with anything from the hotel; and no eatables of any
kind --- not even a piece of bread --- could be obtained on board the
steam-boat. We thought little of this, however, when we landed at the
village by the river side. We were still innocent of suspicion --- we still
believed implicitly in the vieux sabreur, and the half-hour's walk before
breakfasting at Bosherville. Mr. Scumble led the way along the road
briskly, and I followed with my inestimable painting-box strapped over
my shoulders. We overheard the villagers speculating about us, as we
left them on the bank by the river. They decided that Mr. Scumble
was a " milord," and that I was his valet, appointed to carry my noble
master's luggage after him in the box at my back.
For full half an hour we walked along shady lanes, thickly fringed
on either side by walnut and pear-trees. Occasionally we passed a
neat-looking cottage, surrounded by its own little plot of kitchen-garden,
but no signs could we discern of a village or an old church. Even in
the shade we could feel how hot it must be in the sunshine. The buz-
zing of insects sounded incessantly over our heads --- no breath of air
came to us --- not a leaf moved on the trees around --- the patches of
cloudless sky that we now and then discerned, looked blazing hot. We
were beginning to feel intensely anxious about breakfast, when an old
beggar met us, and from him we determined to seek information.
" Here's a sous for you ", said I. " Vive l'Angleterre ! " answered the
gratified and venerable mendicant. " Are we near St. George Bosher-
ville? " asked Mr. Scumble. " Never heard of such a place in my
498 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
life," replied the beggar. From this moment I date our first dread
doubts of the veracity of the vieux sabreur.
Another half-hour's walking brought us out, more hungry than ever,
upon interminable ranges of corn-fields. Here the sun poured down
upon us uninterruptedly --- I felt that my beloved painting-box was
slowly broiling upon my back. No houses were to be seen, far or near
--- nobody appeared to direct us. I looked round despairingly on Mr.
Scumble, who now walked behind me. That cultivated artist and
philosophic man appeared to be dividing his time between wiping the
moisture from his brow, and breakfasting gratis on ears of corn. As
my painting-box was not quite " baked to a turn " yet, I followed his
example, and, in the absence of manufactured wheat, began to prey
vigorously on the raw material. The experiment was a perfect failure.
The ears of corn refused to go any lower than my throat --- one or two
might accidentally descend a little further; but they were sure to be
coughed up again immediately afterwards, all right and tight, into their
old position. I gave it up, and resigned myself, thenceforth, an unre-
sisting sacrifice to hunger and heat.
At last we met another living creature (I was about to call him a
human being, but he was undeserving of the epithet), a dirty, hairy,
sinister-looking wretch, mounted on a lean shambling horse --- a mis-
creant of the melo-dramatic order, with a short pipe in his mouth, and
pistols at his saddle-bow. In Italy we should have set him down for a
bandit, taking a morning ride; but, being in France, we presumed him
to be a horse-patrol. " St. George Bosherville? " we exclaimed inter-
rogatively, as he passed. " Go on ! " growled the fellow, savagely,
without taking his pipe out of his mouth, stopping his horse, or vouch-
safing even to look at us. Oh, for one of our " red cavalry," spoken of
by the vieux sabreur, to lay that patrol on his back ! Nom d'une pipe !
the sight would have been almost as agreeable to us at that moment as
the sight of a good breakfast !
We had now been walking from the river-side more than two hours,
when suddenly we caught sight of a village --- a very little one --- but still
a village. Oh, joy ! oh, ecstacy ! oh, welcome fulfilment of the long-
deferred hope of the hungry and the hot ! But no ! Not joy, not
ecstacy, not fulfilment of hope --- but climax of despair ! Misery of
miseries, there is no church visible ! Mille bombes, it is not Bosherville
even yet !
A woman comes by as we make the above discovery --- an old woman.
She is riding on a mule, and (I blush while I write it) rides astride !
Modestly averting our eyes, we address our regular form of interroga-
tory --- " St. George Bosherville? " --- to this aged Amazon. " Straight
on," cries she, and kicks the mule on either side, and passes by, surly
and unpitying as the horse-patrol himself.
There is no baker's shop, no inn to be seen in this accursed village.
We must still go on, furious and famishing. At this hottest and hungriest
part of our tour, I consider it, in every respect, a most fortunate circum-
stance that we met no children of fleshy appearance and tender years.
If we had ! --- but I dare not pursue the subject; let Ghouls, cannibals,
and shipwrecked sailors pause over this passage, and reflect. The mere
mutton-eating part of the public had better for their own sakes, go on
to the next paragraph.
Another half-hour of walking, and we begin to stagger: we can feel
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 499
ourselves growing thinner --- collapsing altogether, as it were. But
look ! What appears now, at the very crisis of our sufferings? What
building is that, down there, where the ground dips? A church !
Gracious powers, the church ! There is such a place as Bosherville,
after all ! The vieux sabreur is a veteran ignorant of distances, a
superannuated military humbug; but he has not sent us in search of an
utter myth. Breakfast, breakfast ! Never mind stopping to look at
the church; never mind the old Normans; never mind historical asso-
ciations; never mind the beauties of nature. Breakfast ! breakfast !
We pass between two rows of miserable cottages --- these must of
course be only the suburbs of Bosherville. We meet a second old
woman --- a decent old woman, evidently incapable of getting astride
upon a mule like the first. " Pray, madam, where is the hotel? "
" Hotel ! " she exclaims, bewildered; " we have got nothing but a
public-house." " No matter; where is the public-house? " " Here,
close by; 'The Piebald Horse,' kept by the Veuve Duval." And here
it is, indeed. Come in, come in. Excellent Veuve Duval; glorious
sign, " The Piebald Horse." Something to eat at last; a bit of the
piebald horse, himself, if you like; anything will do; oh, Veuve
Duval, anything will do.
The hostess of " The Piebald Horse " was a corpulent woman; she
had evidently never gone without her breakfast as long as we had, in
the whole course of her life. She showed us into a long, low-roofed
room, containing many chairs and tables ranged in regular rows. Oh,
how cool the place looked ! how cool it really was, after the scorching
road. A ray of sunlight shone in at one window, as if to remind us of
the contrast between the atmosphere within doors and the atmosphere
without; it touched brightly some dishes ranged against the wall, and a
part of the cool brick floor. Quite an interior of De Hooge's, cried
Mr Scumble. Even at this supreme moment, the fiercest pangs of
hunger failed to dim that poetic painter's eye for the picturesque.
" Breakfast ! " cried I, reckless of art and De Hooge. " Cold veal,
piqué? " suggested that dear Veuve Duval. " Yes." " Omelette? "
" Yes." " Poached eggs? " " Yes." " Cheese? " " Yes." " Bread?
coffee? radishes? butter? wine? brandy? " " Yes." " And, of
course, you have got your own pocket-knives with you, like other people
who come here? " concluded the Veuve Duval. This last question was
rather puzzling; Mr. Scumble had a penknife in his waistcoat pocket;
but could he cut an immense circular loaf of bread, the size, shape and
colour of the wooden cover of a " wash-house copper ", with a penknife?
Certainly not. I possessed two palette knives in my painting-box; but
could I prostitute art by using a palette knife to eat my breakfast with?
Ultimately, the Veuve Duval benevolently lent us her late husband's
own particular case-knife, and two immense steel forks from the kitchen.
Furnished with these weapons, we began the attack. The cold veal
was as solid and heavy a wedge of flesh as I ever remember to have
encountered; but it was triumphantly demolished in a few minutes.
As for the eggs, the omelette, and the cheese, they were the mere light
infantry of the gastronomic forces mustered on the table; and they dis-
appeared yet faster than the veal. Two bottles of wine, two cups of
coffee, four glasses of brandy appeared one after another, as auxiliaries
500 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
on the field, and, one after another, were utterly annihilated on the spot.
Finally, when the assault was over, when everything was destroyed, the
generous victors freely consented to pay tribute for the devastation they
had committed. The fine politely proposed to them, and as politely
accepted, was two francs, or one shilling and eightpence each. Thus
ended the memorable victory of British teeth over Gallic food, at the
sign of " The Piebald Horse," St. George Bosherville.
After the breakfast was over, if I felt an inclination for anything in
the world, it was, I think, for an hour or so of profound meditation, in
a horizontal position, on one of the unoccupied tables around me. But
I was not destined to enjoy any such luxury. No sooner was the animal
part of Mr. Scumble duly refreshed, than the intellectual part resumed
all its accustomed sway and activity. Again the enthusiasm of anti-
quarian research, the fire of pictorial ambition, burned within that
capacious bosom, as my friend arose, and declared that it was now full
time to examine the old church, and to sketch the beauties of Nature in
all directions, wherever we could find them. Vainly did I plead for a
half hour of delay. Mr. Scumble talked me down instantly with the
old Normans and Gothic architecture, and exultingly ended his oration
by pointing to my painting-box, and asking me whether I had carried it
all the way to Bosherville for nothing? --- And if not, then what had I
brought it for? What, indeed ! For my sins, I believe ! --- for my
penance; for my inveterate incubus wherever I go. Why, ah ! why,
could not I be content with a sketch-book and a pencil? Why must I
needs drag about with me this load of mahogany wood, this burden of
strong-smelling paint, this absurd posse of materials complete enough
to serve for a full-length portrait, or a life-size picture of the highest
possible Art? I have committed one of those deplorable errors which
may be most acutely felt as perfectly irremediable, on a hot day and
after a heavy breakfast. Truly, and from my heart, can I now say it:---
In an evil hour, oh, box, did I bring thee from London to the land of the
But there was no resisting the reasoning of my friend. There lay
the sun-baked box to confirm it, mutely eloquent, and not quite cold yet.
Once more, therefore, did I strap on my burden, and sleepily follow at
Mr. Scumble's heels.
When we got to the church --- I believe it was a very old one; but I
really know nothing about it --- the door was locked. I sat down on the
steps, and quietly went to sleep, while Mr. Scumble knocked, peeped
through the key-hole, and walked round and round the building with a
remarkable perseverance, which produced no effect whatever. I was
aroused from my slumbers by hearing one of the villagers inform my
friend that the beadle, who kept the keys, had carried them off in his
pocket, and gone to work in the fields. To what particular point in the
compass we ought to direct our steps in order to find this agricultural
official of the church, the villager did not know. All he could say was,
that the beadle sometimes came home to dinner at two o'clock; and
that we had better apply to him, at that hour, in a little cottage situated
just opposite to us. If we wanted to see the church, this was the only
conceivable chance we had of getting inside of it.
Under these circumstances, I proposed to Mr. Scumble --- as the best
means of ensuring a meeting with the beadle --- to leave me asleep on
the church steps. I should thus be certain of attracting his attention
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 501
officially, whenever he passed me, whether early or late, on his way
home to dinner. Having some small change ready in my pocket, I
was perfectly willing to risk being apprehended as a sacrilegious foreign
vagrant, for the sake of the facility which my plan offered for seeing
the beadle, come home whenever he might; and informing him that
Monsieur Scumble, artiste et antiquaire Anglais, &c.&c., wanted the keys
of the church. My friend, however, generously refused to allow me to
sacrifice myself; and, saying that we could easily return to the beadle's
cottage at two o'clock, proposed that we should ascend to a pine wood
cresting a hill that rose behind the church --- a shady place, where we
might sketch trees and digest our breakfast in perfect contentment and
Away we went, up a road that led over some fields to the hill.
Perhaps it was the breakfast; perhaps it was the exposed situation of
the ground on which we were walking; perhaps the sun happened to be
exactly vertical at that precise moment --- but, whatever it was, we felt
hotter than ever. By the time we had got half way to the wood, we
were fain to take shelter under the mere atom of ragged shade supplied
by a small and solitary apple-tree, standing in the middle of a parched,
naked field. We tried the fruit --- it was bitter as gall, dry as captains'
biscuits. --- We looked around us --- where was the sublime landscape so
much vaunted by the deceitful vieux sabreur? The old church was
below us, white, bare, and insufferably glaring in the fierce sunlight; it
looked little better than an old barn, with a steeple attached. The
country around was nicely cultivated; and the distant view was com-
fortably closed in by trees and meadows. It was just that sort of scene
which you pronounce " pretty," as you drive through it; and which has
no claims to your remembrance five minutes afterwards. Such was the
place that we had starved and wearied ourselves to come and see ! Day
of disasters ! what worse calamities and disappointments can you yet
have in store for us? Bosherville, aptly-named Bosherville ! have you
nothing to offer to your deluded tourists but this?
We made but a short halt of it under the apple-tree. About ten
minutes of the most uncomfortable repose possible, in that exposed
situation, sufficed to re-animate us in our resolution to reach the pine
wood on the top of the hill. Considering the intenseness of the heat,
and the season of the year, our topic of conversation as we once more
traced our way over the bare, scorched ground, was an alarmingly appro-
priate one --- it was hydrophobia ! Mr. Scumble was disastrously elo-
quent upon this subject; he quoted various " cases," one more fearful
than another; he harangued upon them in all their bearings, with a
grim, solemn enjoyment of his own horrors, which it was truly edifying
to behold --- he was just launching into a furious diatribe against the
whole canine species, when the words were suspended on his lips by a
growl; a captious, dissenting, ferocious growl, close at his heels ! He
looked round; and there was a dog behind him --- a dog that had
supernaturally stolen upon his security, avengingly marked out the
calves of his legs for immediate sacrifice, exactly at the moment when
he was advocating the annihilation of the whole dog species ! To this
day, I cannot believe that animal; that hideous, mangy, overgrown,
blear-eyed cur, to have been mortal ! His master --- if he had a master
--- never appeared in sight; where he had come from; how he had
managed to get close up to us, on a perfectly open road, without betray-
502 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
ing his whereabouts, it was impossible to tell. There he still stood, as
we now faced him, coolly waiting his opportunity for a " bite," the
living realisation of the subject of our talk --- hydrophobia in his moist,
fiery eyes; hydrophobia in his bared teeth and yawning jaws ! hydro-
phobia in his stealthy, noiseless, cat-like tread ! We went on, keep-
ing a sharp look-out upon him; and he followed, keeping as sharp a
look-out upon us --- when we stopped, he stopped --- when we spoke, he
growled immediately, as if he longed to get hold of our very voices in
some tangible shape, and worry them. He followed us in this way ---
just as the spectre-poodle followed Faust --- to the very edge of the
wood; watched us intently while we broke off for his especial benefit
two of the thickest sticks we could find; uttered a long, low, dreary
howl of mortification as we got them free to use; and then walked
softly and slowly back again, along the road by which he had come.
Of all the " running commentaries on a text " that I ever heard of,
that portentous animal --- as the running commentary on Mr. Scumble's
dissertation upon hydrophobia --- was the most remarkable and the most
Our supernatural adventure with the dog thus brought to a happy
termination, we had leisure to look around us in the wood. Part
of it was overgrown with thick brambles and bushes; part, was delight-
fully covered with the softest and thickest moss, from which the
stalwart young pines sprang up together in crowds. In this latter
direction we turned our steps, and soon came to a halt. How grateful
was the shade in these dim, quiet recesses of the wood ! --- how soft the
natural bed which the mossy ground offered everywhere to our limbs !
We thought on " As You Like It," and the Forest of Arden --- on the
complainings of the melancholy Jacques; on the philosophy of the
exiled Duke; on all that gives to scenery and figures their endless and
bewitching charm, in that loveliest pastoral picture which Shakspeare
ever drew !
For some time we lay thus musing quietly in our comfortable retreat.
If we had not been pursued by a fatality on that disastrous day, we
should have wisely remained idling in the wood until the cool of the
evening; and then have found our way back to Rouen as pleasantly as
we could. But it was not thus written ! My eye suddenly fell upon
the unlucky painting-box, as it lay at my side. I felt that I must make
a sketch, or cover myself with ignominy as an artist and a man ! I
had, more or less, sweated under that box since five o'clock in the morn-
ing --- to take it back again without once having made use of it, was too
ridiculous ! Rousing myself, accordingly, from my sylvan day-dreams,
I unpacked my materials, prepared my palette, seized my brushes and
my bit of mill-board, and began to work resolutely and in a mighty
hurry. A peep of distant country was just visible through the rows of
pine stems --- I was not particular --- I had vowed to make a sketch, no
matter what --- so I sketched the pine stems and the distant country.
While I pursued my occupation, not one audible word dropped from the
generally eloquent lips of Mr. Scumble, who now happened to be placed
immediately behind me. At first, I attributed this to the practical check
administered to that distinguished man, by our enemy the dog, during the
discussion on hydrophobia; but, on turning round to assure myself of the
truth, I discovered my friend extended flat on his back, and fast asleep
already --- with his drawing-book and pencil lying idle by his side. Easy
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 503
style of sketching from Nature that, Mr Scumble ! Quite a new and
improved method for young beginners ! Nice example, sir, of industry
and enterprise to set to the humble individual whom you upbraided for
inactivity in the parlour of the " Piebald Horse ! " Oh, weak and
faltering human nature, who shall number thy inconsistencies ! Oh,
genius, heaven-born genius, where is the moral apothecary who shall
purge thee of all thy frailties !
I felt my own superiority, as I turned from the humiliating spectacle
behind me, and resumed my work with redoubled ardour. I by no
means, however, succeeded to my satisfaction --- but what artist ever
did? I ask it boldly, and defy contradiction from all the schools in
Europe --- what artist ever did succeed to his satisfaction, when he was
sketching from Nature in oils? What is the whole process, but toil
and vexation of spirit, difficulty and disappointment from beginning
to end? For example; you want to take your view from a par-
ticular point --- very good ! place yourself at that point; and you are
sure to find the sun shining slap --- (l feel strongly on this subject, and
must express myself in Anglo-Saxon ) --- I repeat it, therefore, shining
slap in your eyes ! Move away; give up; go into the shade; and, in
the first place you always find yourself opposite the worst view of the
subject you want to paint. Go on, nevertheless; and more trials are in
store for you. If there is any moveable object in the scene --- an old
cart, let us say --- the owner is sure to want to take it away by the time
you have just sketched it in. Then, if the effect of light is sunny when
you begin, clouds are certain to change it for you altogether, before you
have half done. Then, every insect that can fly is sure to commit
suicide on the oily surface of your picture --- every vagrant morsel of
dust is caught by it, as if by magnetic attraction --- cattle will come all
across a field to gather sociably round you, and poke down your easel.
Pshaw ! if it were my business, I could write treatises, volumes,
libraries-full of books upon the antagonism of Nature and Art, viewed
in this way ! What are critics and writers on painting about? What
are Academies and Lecturers about? Why don't they give us instruc-
tions how to act, under emergencies such as those I have hinted at
above? Why don't the " potent, grave, and reverend signors " of the
brush instruct " us youth " how to bear these trials; how to overcome
them; how to get gnats, for instance, off a wet picture; or how to paint
them into the picture, and make it look like " fine execution," if they
cannot really be got off? Does the President of the Royal Academy
want a good subject for his next address to the students? If he does,
I make him a present of the subject of this paragraph; and shall feel
honoured by receiving in return a printed copy of his composition,
gratis, of course, and carriage paid.
Subject to most of the above-mentioned disadvantages of sketching
from Nature, I nevertheless continued to paint with unflagging resolu-
tion. I added beauties; I corrected errors, until at last I succeeded in
persuading myself --- upon very sufficient grounds, as I am still disposed
to think --- that I had remedied my first deficiencies, and produced a work
of the purest and most correct order of landscape art. At this stage of
my proceedings --- when I saw my mimic pine-trees palpably growing in
beauty, my glimpses of horizon bathing themselves every minute in a
more and more translucent atmosphere, under the application of the
creative brush --- I placed my sketch, in a slanting position, against the
504 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
stem of a neighbouring tree; and retired to examine its effect artistically
from a distance. This important action, as everybody knows, or ought
to know, is only to be properly accomplished by letting the head fall a
little on one side; slightly frowning; partially closing the eyes; and
slowly covering one object after another in your picture from sight, with
the first two fingers of either hand. I have known some eminent
painters who hum, whistle, sigh, or suck their teeth, while in this posi-
tion of critical inspection --- physical exertions, all or each of them, which
have an excellent effect, especially when any uninitiated spectators hap-
pen to be by; but which are to be only considered as purely optional,
as slight additional graces, or ornaments, of no vital necessity to the
proper process of taking a distant view of a work of art.
I remained for some time absorbed in the remote contemplation of
my performance. When I at length returned to it --- oh, fatal interval
of easy approval and calm intellectual enjoyment ! --- what did I behold?
A catastrophe perhaps unprecedented in the annals of Art --- my sketch
from Nature was covered with ants ! I had unconsciously placed it for
free exhibition before a nest of those industrious and inquisitive insects
--- and there they were insanely struggling upon it, by dozens; sticking
in agonies on the tops of my pine-trees; drawing black dots with their
dying bodies all over my glimpses of sunny horizon. Strange as it
may appear, I neither raved, groaned, invoked curses, nor tore my hair.
I felt that this last calamity only added one more link to the intricate
chain of failures in which fate had entangled our actions from the begin-
ning of the day --- the tour to Bosherville was evidently destined to be a
complete and consistent succession of disasters from beginning to end.
As I reflected on the subject in this light, a dreary comfort, a gloomy
sense of satisfaction became awakened within me; and I calmly set to
work to dispose of my spoilt picture thus:---
After carefully cleaning and putting away my painting materials, I
cut up from the ground, with my palette knife, a piece of moss the
exact size of my sketch --- which appeared by this time to be, as it were,
peppered all over with ants. I then mournfully placed my work in the
receptacle,or grave, which I had formed for it, and covered it over tight
with the piece of moss. No tablet marks the spot --- no epitaph arrests
the passing stranger --- the offspring of my genius lies buried in dread
secrecy; buried by its bereaved parent in a foreign land ! Sneer not,
inartistic reader --- smile not, general public ! You who would lightly say:
--- he was a fool for his pains; he had better have thrown his sketch away
at once, or wiped it out and kept the mill-board for another time ! --- pause
in modest doubt, in reverent silence --- you know not how sacred is the
work to the worker --- you cannot feel the sweet and soothing charm of
such funeral obsequies as I here describe ! And you, sympathising souls,
select and sentimental few who long to drop a tear over the grave of the
Bosherville landscape, accept my heart-felt thanks; and comfort your-
selves, I beseech you, with the consolatory reflection which, even at this
distance of time, still comforts me under my loss: I have firmly imbedded
a work of British art in the soil of France; let Revolutions root up that
sacred deposit of native English talent, if they can !
Just as the performance of the funeral was over, Mr. Scumble awoke,
looking very dreamy and bilious, and complaining of a violent headache.
He attributed this, generally to the breakfast, and particularly to the
Veuve Duval's wine, which he took leave to consider the very reverse
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 505
of " a genuine article: " and I think he was right. Here was another
disaster ! Even our breakfast was no exception to the general rule of
calamity --- innocently seeking to refresh exhausted Nature, we were fated
to batten on adulteration, and inherit indigestion for the remainder of
the day, Well, well ! --- patience even yet ! Still scornfully enduring
the decrees of adverse fate, let us leave the wood and get back to
the old church. But what time is it? Past three o'clock; and we are
more than half an hour's walk from the beadle's cottage, where we ought
to have arrived at two ! Art has fatally beguiled one of us, and sleep
the other ! Good ! --- this last blow comes not unexpected --- when every-
thing else has deceived us, what man with a grain of philosophy can
wonder that Time should turn Humbug too?
However, although we happen to be about an hour and a half too
late, we will nevertheless leave the wood --- the dark cemetery where my
sketch lies interred amid the congenial charms of Nature --- and go to
the beadle's cottage. All human chances and changes are now alike
unimportant to us, at St. George Bosherville --- we will revisit the old
church, as a matter of form; careless whether its door gives us entrance
By the time we arrive at the cottage, it is four o'clock. We knock,
but vainly: nobody is at home; the beadle has either never left his
native fields, or has gone back to them after dinner. The beadle's
kittens, three in number, spring out playfully upon us from a small
hole in the beadle's door, and inhospitably fix their teeth and claws in
the ends of our trousers: no other living creature appears. We walk
back to the church --- it is locked up still; and our last chance of any
luck at Bosherville has gone. We peep through an open door in a wall
at one side of the building; and behold the deserted garden of what
was once a convent. It is a calm, cool, solitary place; with moulder-
ing stone buildings running round three sides of it, and a deep well in
the midst, overshadowed by olive trees. There is no sunlight, no sound,
here; ages seemed to have passed since those cracked pavements and
weedy walks have been trodden by human feet; the active world, ever
changing, ever going on, all around, seems to have decayed and died on
the rotten wooden threshold where we stand. Let us close the door,
and depart. We are in no humour now for the mournful associations
and the solitary worn-out places of the earth --- we are, for the present,
bilious and disappointed men, only fit, if we must moralise upon any
subject, to moralise on ourselves.
There is now but one thing more to be done; and that is, to atone
for the error we have committed in coming to Bosherville at all, by
ascertaining the best means of getting back immediately to Rouen. For
this purpose, it is necessary to return to that unprincipled vendor of
adulterated wines, the Veuve Duval. Let us once again, therefore, seek
the parlour of the " Piebald Horse."
Our hostess's information, when we applied to her, was of a some-
what indefinite and discouraging nature. The nearest road from Bosher-
ville to Rouen was, she believed, more than four hours' walk; there
were no carriages for hire, in the place; there was a public conveyance
which occasionally passed through it in the afternoons, but not on stated
days; in fact, the starting of this very independent and irregular vehicle
was chiefly determined by the number of passengers who wanted to go
by it. If they mustered numerously, the " conductor " gave the word
506 PICTORIAL TOUR TO
to depart --- if not, he waited for a proper accumulation until the next
day. " And suppose you wait now," said the Veuve Duval, in conclusion,
" and take your chance that our little diligence will pass to-day; it may
come by in an hour or so; and it is your only chance, that I know of,
for riding back to Rouen."
Although we felt firmly persuaded that this last miserable " chance "
of all would fail us, like the rest of our chances at St. George Bosher-
ville, we took the advice of our hostess as readily, though not quite as
confiding1y, as we had taken her wine. We lay down in a sort of indo-
lent despair, to watch for the " little diligence " on a small patch of turf
in front of the inn. The Veuve Duval reposed elegantly behind us, in
a large arm-chair placed in her doorway --- the Veuve Duval's flock of
poultry congregated about our prostrate forms --- and the Veuve Duval's
small grandson, who had grilled one side of his infant-countenance by
innocently falling into the fire, sat down upon my extended legs, and
from that respectable position surveyed with lively curiosity the aspect
of affairs in general. Afternoon was changing into evening; long
shadows of trees behind us fell over the green; the atmosphere was
exquisitely mellow and transparent; altogether we formed, with our sur-
rounding scenery, what I consider was a charming little pastoral picture.
Let some of my esteemed brother-artists who are in want of a good
subject, take this. If they can only make the Veuve Duval fat enough,
and young master Duval scorched enough on one side of his face, and
dirty enough on the other --- if they can but justly delineate the sym-
metrical figures and handsome, though somewhat despondent, features
of the reclining tourists of Bosherville --- why, then, let them feel assured
of painting a picture which will be the glory of the British School, and
the coveted object of purchase to the British Patron.
Time passed; but the public conveyance did not. At length, we
heard a prodigious noise of rolling-wheels and jingling-bells; and a
mighty, over-laden, over-filled diligence, thundered by us, as fast as six
horses driven at a hand-gallop could draw it. Reckless of the crowded
state of this vehicle, outside and in, I hailed it with the English " Hoi ! "
Mr. Scumble, with more presence of mind, shouted " Arretez ! " in his
most Parisian accent. Neither appeal produced the smallest effect; the
diligence flew by furiously, and left us still quietly domesticated among
the poultry on the green. When all noise had quite died away, the
Veuve Duval oracularly informed us from her arm-chair, that the public
conveyance we had just beheld was going from, instead of to, Rouen.
No matter ! If that diligence had been running straight on to Crim
Tartary we should have taken places, if it had stopped, for the sake of
getting away from St. George Boshervilie !
What was to be done? it was evening already. Were we to blister
our feet by walking all the way back to Rouen? Or, were we to sleep
at the " Piebald Horse," and suffer from the vermin of the Inn, as we had
already suffered from the wine? --- Impossible ! We were still at the
crisis of our doubt and despondency, when an idea, an inestimably prac-
tical idea, struck me. I advanced to the arm-chair of the Veuve Duval
--- I had previously asked her for a carriage: I now lowered my tone
and submissively petitioned for a cart.
If carts had been scarce, I was prepared to offer a liberal reward for
two wheelbarrows, and two strong men to wheel them. We were, how-
ever, spared the ignominy of entering the city of Rouen in wheelbarrows:
ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE. 507
the Veuve Duval recollected one neighbour who had a cart, and another
who had an old mare, which he would be delighted to drive for a pecu-
niary consideration. This was very soon agreed on; the cart was pro-
cured; the mare was harnessed; the driver smartly cracked his whip ---
joyful sights, joyful sounds ! we shall get away from the " Piebald
Horse " after all !
At first, I had considerable difficulty in inducing Mr. Scumble --- who
had a strong feeling for propriety, and a great regard for appearances ---
to enter the vehicle which my ingenuity had provided. Both cart and
mare were very old --- the first was without springs: the second without
eyesight. A board stretched across the cart, and swinging loose from the
sides by leathern thongs, was the seat provided for us. As for our coach-
man, his " box " was an old wooden chair, placed in the cart through
the kind attention of the Veuve Duval herself. The mare's reins were
artfully compounded of leather and rope; and she was finely ornamented
about the head and neck with rows of bells and tufts of scarlet worsted.
I am not disposed to contend that our equipage was elegant; perhaps,
it was vulgar --- decidedly low. But it was picturesque; and therefore
lovely to the artist's eye --- it offered a seat: could the wearied philoso-
pher require more?
By some such arguments as these I succeeded in prevailing on Mr.
Scumble to enter the cart. Our driver, a cheerful, sunburnt fellow,
placed himself on his chair in front, shouting to the old mare certain
cabalistic syllables, which sounded like, " Eh ! hopp, hopp ! yopp, yopp,
ye-e-ee ! " and we started at a jog-trot. It was the first sweet triumph
of our disastrous day; we turned our backs at last upon St. George
Nothing, I apprehend, but the consciousness that we were escaping
from the scene of our many discomfitures, could have enabled us to sus-
tain, as we did, the intense misery of riding in our cart. The jolting
and jigging never ceased for a moment, even in the smoothest part of
the road. If Mr. Scumble and I forgot to keep tight hold of our re-
spective sides of the cart, some preternaturally concentric action was
sure to rattle us slowly across our wide seat, and then closely jam us
together, bobbing and jerking simultaneously, and rasping each other's
shoulders, as if we had been fastened together like the Siamese twins.
As for our worthy coachman, his wooden chair being left unconfined,
travelled of its own accord backwards and forwards, over the whole
area of the front portion of the cart. But no changes of position, how-
ever undignified and extraordinary, affected the imperturbable good
humour of that heartiest of French peasants. There he sat before us,
bobbing up and down on his locomotive chair, until it made one giddy
to look at his back. His blouse, filled by the evening air, was so in-
flated all round him, that he looked like a human balloon. He never
ceased talking the whole way --- sometimes to me, sometimes to my com-
panion, sometimes to the old mare, sometimes to himself. He told us
his own history, the history of the Veuve Duval, the history of the cart,
the history of the mare; he expatiated on the harvest, on the scenery,
on the weather; and he never wanted more encouragement to go on
than such small answers as an occasional " Yes," or " No " supplied.
This taciturnity on our parts arose from no ill-feeling whatever; the
fact is, the cart so jerked and tossed us about, that our teeth chattered
as if with extreme cold, and we entertained the liveliest apprehensions
508 PICTORIAL TOUR TO ST. GEORGE BOSHERVILLE.
of inadvertently biting our own tongues off, every time we ventured to
The moon had risen, and was shining calmly on the waters of the
Seine, as we arrived at length at the outskirts of Rouen. Here Mr.
Scumble stopped the cart, and insisted on walking the short remainder
of our way back. My own wish was to drive boldly into the court-
yard of the hotel, and exhibit to all the citizens (including the vieux
sabreur) the best conveyance that Bosherville could provide. But
I respected my friend's prejudices, and, aching in every joint, walked
back with him to the inn.
What a day we had passed ! What a subject we afforded for a new
poem on the vanity of human wishes ! Our brightest hopes of the
morning had ended in famine, indigestion, fatigue; in failing to make
the sketches we wanted to make, and to see the church we had expressly
set forth to examine. But for all that, did we return disheartened? ---
did we grumble and moralise to each other about our accidents and mis-
adventures? No ! I am proud to say, we did better; we laughed over
our disasters, as I have tried to laugh over them here. We ordered a
famous supper, and a steaming bowl of punch; we warmed our hearts
with conviviality until we bore not the slightest particle of malice to
anybody in the whole world (not even the vieux sabreur himself, the
prime cause of all our trials); and finally, we wisely determined to avoid
the temptation to make any more excursions at Rouen, by going on to
Paris the next day.
The morning comes, and we hold to our last night's resolution over
the bowl of punch. A comfortable little open carriage waits us at the
door --- we fling our carpet-bags into it, and drive off to the railway-
station. On our road we pass the coffee-house of the vieux sabreur.
We observe him in his garden, watering the cedar of Lebanon just as
usual. He hears us approach, sees our luggage, and drops his watering-
pot in astonishment at our sudden departure. We wave our hands to
him in token of a last derisive farewell. He is too bewildered to speak
at that moment. It is only when we have driven by, that we can just
hear him shouting to his wife inside the coffee-house:---
" Mille bombes ! the Englishmen are leaving us ! They cannot have
seen St. George Bosherville ! "
Introduction to the text